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Microsoft Isn’t Firing Journalists, It’s Firing Story Pickers

Dozens of journalists have been sacked after Microsoft decided to replace them with artificial intelligence software.

Staff who maintain the news homepages on Microsoft’s MSN website and its Edge browser – used by millions of Britons every day – have been told that they will be no longer be required because robots can now do their jobs.

It’s not quite what it sounds like:-
Around 27 individuals employed by PA Media – formerly the Press Association – were told on Thursday that they would lose their jobs in a month’s time after Microsoft decided to stop employing humans to select, edit and curate news articles on its homepages.
Writing stories sounds like a hard thing for AI to do. You’re going to get all sorts of stuff that reads like Engrish, but selecting stories? Not so much.
One of the things that works quite well with AI is categorisation and prioritisation. Like when you enter the name of a product in eBay, it gives you recommended categories. eBay is doing word matching for categories and scoring them and giving you top ones first. It’s not perfect, but it’s good enough to be very helpful.

The people at MSN have probably developed some sort of model based on scoring on perhaps source, title, content. They know that “Kanye West” gets lots of readers, and mostly scores high for entertainment. Maybe “Boris Johnson” gets lots of readers and mostly scores high for news. Add up the scores and the highest articles get selected.

One staff member who worked on the team said: “I spend all my time reading about how automation and AI is going to take all our jobs, and here I am – AI has taken my job.”
AI isn’t going to take all our jobs. There’s still going to be someone overseeing all of this because AI is kinda dumb. AI can give you lots of good possibles. The best match for your product on eBay might be the 3rd selection. Sometimes, it’ll be none of the list.You need a human to take what is given and verify it.
And, well, yeah. Maybe should have spent some spare time learning some TensorFlow if you could see it coming.
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3 years ago

AI is indeed good enough to sift through all the articles from designated sources and decide which will appeal most to readers. It will be better than humans, as it will not consider whether it agrees with the article’s assumptions. Management of AI will involve deciding what of the billions of web pages merit being a designated source for AI to search. This might be the only way for clandestine bias to sneak back in.

Bloke on M4
Bloke on M4
3 years ago
Reply to  Spike

The management is more about errors. Not things that take a particular line, but things that are flat wrong but crude AI gets wrong.

Like if you ever use image AI they’re very good at things. Around 95% good. 5% of the time it either can’t tell or really fouls up. Like, it detects a Ford Pontiac as a pineapple. Why? I don’t know.

3 years ago
Reply to  Bloke on M4

really fouls up. Why?
Lack of domain knowledge aka common sense. You or I might have a momentary illusion or wake from a confusingly real dream, but context is usually a damper of an over-active imagination or implausible line of reasoning. So long as the logic, or probabilities, or hill-climbing, seem to be heading somewhere AI will just keep going.

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